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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


For a horrifying but very real picture of human resistance and endurance in time of war, read Laura Hillenbrand's captivatingly written Unbroken.  This is non-fiction that reads as fiction. Make sure you have time because once you pick up this book, you will not want o put it down.

Hillenbrand is extremely careful to let us get to know our protagonist, Louis Zamperini, from the time he was a child, an often recalcitrant child, until he was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II.  The author's meticulous depiction of  Louis' background, his focused attempt to become an Olympic runner in the  famous 1936 Olympics and later as a dedicated Army Air Corps bombardier helps us understand how Louis, despite the odds, withstood the Japanese treatment of prisoners of war and particularly of him.

In June, 1943, Zamperini and his fellow fliers were shot down and adrift in an ocean teeming with sharks.  They had just enough food to sustain the barest of life for those not injured; they managed just enough water to do the same, and then, after being strafed by a Japanese fighter, they were captured and became part of the Japanese prisoner-of-war system that left more dead prisoners by a significant margin than any other country in WWII.  The Japanese culture despised the idea of surrender or of being captured by the enemy, and their treatment of their captives reflected their disgust and lack of respect. 

It's easier to understand the treatment of prisoners when one reads what Japanese politician Nakajima Chikuhei said in 1940 “ is the sacred duty of the leading race [Japanese] to lead and enlighten the inferior ones.” The Japanese, he continued are the “sole superior race of the world.” Its military-run school system drilled children on this imperial destiny.” 

Because of their schooling, violence became an integral component of the Japanese military culture: “...the Japanese imperial army made violence a cultural imperative.”  Before America was attacked at Pearl Harbor, Nanking was an example of the Japanese approach.  Needless to say, Japan's prisoner of war camps were violent places that resulted in more deaths than in releases at the end of the war.

Throughout Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand leads her readers to understand not only the Japanese approach to its prisoners and supports her statements with statistics but also to see how Louis Zamperini had grown into a man who had a chance of surviving despite the odds.

I absolutely do not want to give you any more specifics about what Louis endured nor do I want to delve too deeply into his “before” and “after” lives.  All of this man's life was a remarkable journey.

Why read it if it is simply the biography of a splendid individual?  The answer is simple.  Louis has a a great deal to teach us about dedication, endurance, and finding one's self time and again despite the pain.  His life is something we can all profit from understanding. 

Unbroken is well-written, interesting, supported (you will see her bibliography at the end), and will make you want to look at other books by Laura Hillenbrand.  

Unbroken is going to be the book read in this fall's Orange [County] Reads program, and I will be leading the discussion in several libraries around the county.  If you live here, I hope you'll participate.

Friday, April 18, 2014


This is the Roman Catholic Church of All Nations or the Church or Basilica of Agony
It is located at the foot of The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem next to the Garden of Gethsemane
The Church enshrines a section of stone from the Garden of Gethsemane where it is believed
Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest.

Higher up on The Mount of Olives and gleaming in the sun is
the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.
It is arguably one of the most beautiful churches in Jerusalem.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Congregation Mickve Israel
Savannah, Georgia
As we travel, we often stop to admire beautiful houses of worship, especially those known for their unique characters.  We visited one of these special places in Savannah, Georgia.

It seems fitting that as Jewish peoples around the world are in the midst of the holiday of Passover, a holiday celebrating the liberation of a people from slavery, I write about a more modern and early group of Georgian settlers leaving one land searching for freedom of religion in another.

The third oldest Jewish community in America is located in Savannah, Georgia where, on July 11, 1733, just five months after James Oglethorpe established the colony of Georgia, a group of 34 poor Sephardic Jews (of Spanish/Portugese heritage who had been Crypto-Jews, publicly practicing Catholicism while secretly retaining their Jewish identity and religion) and eight Ashkenazic Jews (of German descent) arrived from London to begin a new life.

They brought with them a Torah (Bible) made of deerskin. That Torah is still used today on commemorative occasions, and those Jewish immigrants established a synagogue, Kahal Kodesh Mickva Israel—Holy Congregation Hope of Israel.  They came looking for religious freedom and a new life, and even today, descendents of those original Jewish settlers participate in this synagogue and this congregation.

This was the largest single immigration of Jewish people to this continent .  Their specific purpose was to establish a Jewish congregation and to practice their religion freely.

Why did I choose to include this synagogue still functioning today in a city where the Jewish population is about 3,700 people?  When George Washington was elected the first President of the United States, the president of this synagogue wrote him a congratulatory letter.  George Washington, President, replied thusly:

Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah
Letters from ten United States' Presidents
beginning with George Washington
 “To the Hebrew Congregation of the City of Savannah, Georgia”:

May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, planted them in the promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven, and make the inhabitants of every denomination partake in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people, whose God is Jehova”

Today in the synagogue’s archival museum are letters from ten presidents including James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, and George Bush.

In a way the history of the Mikva Israel Synagogue in Savannah, Georgia is reminiscent of the Exodus from Egypt

If you get to Savannah, stop in and see this magnificent building where the ark (where the Torah is kept) represents the walls surrounding Old Jerusalem.  

Take the tour of the building, and see a beautiful part of Savannah’s earliest history.

Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah
The "walls" of the Ark holding the Torah
represents the walls of Jerusalem

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Nice weather has FINALLY arrived and makes me think of golf.
Here's the view from our balcony on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Those track-like marks in the background are lava flow scars.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


This is a guest post from one of TAT's readers.  I really enjoyed this, and wanted to share with you.  I think you’ll enjoy it too.  Remember you, too, have a standing invitation to share your vacations with us.
Follow this link to get more information on Homosassa Springs

What if you're adventurous??????
Just came back from turning a sour weekend into a good one.  Went from the funeral of a friend in Ocala, Florida on Saturday to a neat experience of reliving the past by visiting Homosassa Springs in Central Florida, one of the first attractions my parents introduced Florida to me when I was 12. 

For a mere $13.00 ($10 with AARP) each person gets to go on a scenic boat ride on the crystal clear springs of Homosassa and view the "real Florida" as it was when the first explorers came to our land.  There are hundreds of species of beautiful birds, including 5 foot high gorgeous flamingos and many 14 foot toothy alligators. We walked boardwalk about a mile long through a thoughtfully put together theme park with "open" cages filled with Florida key deer, fox, the "blue" wolfs of North Carolina soon to work their way down to Florida, and huge bobcats. There’s a reptile house, and the oldest hippo (53 years) inside the United States.  I believe his name was "Lou."

They also have a rehabilitative center for manatees, "the Florida sea cow, or mermaid," and two of the biggest manatees I have ever seen in my life.

Throughout the park are a good number of clean restrooms for us older walkabouts with ice cold water running through the fountains.  There are several rest areas that sell ice cream and drinks and snacks and at prices that won't send you to having to use your credit cards just to get some refreshment. 

 Another thing, when you park your car, guess what, they don’t charge you $15.00 for them only  to slap you in the face and say they are not responsible for your vehicle.

Right next door we stayed in the beautiful Oasis Hotel that was as clean as the theme park (not connected), with a beautiful pool, bar, and restaurant. The room with nice furnishings included your coffee pot, refrigerator, microwave, and plenty of hot water for---are you ready - ? - including tax $65.00 per night.

I have to warn you in advance, however, there are not many hotels in the area, and although this hotel appears to have at least 200 rooms in it, I would recommend booking in advance as far as you can.  We stepped right into a room on a Saturday with no prior reservations, and around us were several "good old" 1960's type MO-tels that were $32- 38 per night each.

In morning we went across the street to the Sunrise CafĂ©, and for a mere $16 had a super "Platter" breakfast that stuffed the two of us. 

What a refreshing way to see the real Florida.  We enjoyed it and maybe one day after my description someone else may take a look at it too. 

This was originally written to a grand friend who travels a lot herself with her husband and I thought after writing it to her I might share with the rest of my friends as well.

Everybody out there take care of each other.

Friday, April 04, 2014


I'm thinking "South," and that brings to mind the Arthur  Ravenal Jr. Bridge down in
Charleston, South Carolina--one of my favorite cities.